There was a lot on the line on the last day of the group phase for the EuroBasket in Ljubljana, with finals matchups taking their shape well into the night.
Germany defeats Great Britain 62-61 (box score)
With losses coming against the French and wins against the hosts for both sides, there hasn’t been much to separate Germany and Great Britain. Having both already advanced to qualification to the quarter-finals, today’s game was a chance for each young squad to bring clarity to their game plan. Great Britain has been streaky through their performances so far, while Germany has been remarkably consistent for such a young side. Experience on such a stage has led to hot and cold stretches offensively for the Germans, but defensively they have to be happy with how they have looked through 80 minutes.
Great Britain completely owned the first half but this German upstart won’t go away. After a 38-29 lead for the Poms going into the long break, Germany held them scoreless for the first eight and a half minutes of the second half and went into the fourth up 47-44.
On this third-quarter stretch, German big Luisa Geiselsöder shared that the German squad felt the first half wasn’t a good illustration of their team’s identity: “Well in the first half we just didn’t show our German basketball team.
“We didn’t show our style of game. We weren’t aggressive on defence and we said that at half time, we were like: ‘This is not us, we are more aggressive on defence.’ We gotta be in the lines, we gotta be in the gaps, we need to disturb them and I think this is what made it work in the third quarter, just the motivation and keeping everybody available.”
It was more of the same discipline for Germany today and they’re well on their way to being a serious threat for years to come. Defence has been a key theme in their wins as well as a team-wide commitment to looking for the best shot each possession, no matter who takes it. A lot has to be said about a young team that can find a way to win and close out games. Great Britain had more of a focus on their floor than their ceiling today, although the make up of their roster leads them to go through ups and downs.
These teams have a lot on the line as they will be in action on Tuesday in the quarter-final qualifiers.
Hungary defeats Serbia 81-75 (box score)
Neither nation was able to be eliminated after today’s game, but a berth directly to the quarter-finals and a three-day break was on the line for both teams. After their stunning defeat in their second game, Hungary came out connected. After a 2-0 start and two training sessions on the ‘rest day’, Serbia were fine-tuning things as they head into the finals. There was a feeling that both teams were working things out in this contest, yet the product was still very sharp, with scores tied at 23 after the first.
Serbia was in full control of the game and even with Hungary owning the scoreboard for most of the second quarter, the Serbs went into the half up 44-39.
The third quarter was a display of exactly what Hungary is capable of, winning the term 27-11 with a mixture of selfless, smart defence and a varied attack of post-play, getting guards to the cup and to the line, transition and good ball movement finding open shooters. This is what this team is capable of, finding consistency will be key. Hungary has also done something that no one has done against Serbia so far; play their own game, maintained their identity for 40 minutes and give themselves a real shot to win.
On this third-quarter stretch, Hungarian big Virág Kiss credited togetherness while touching on how unacceptable their loss against Turkey was: “Two days ago when we lost against Turkey we were like ‘it cannot happen’. We were leading during the game and made many mistakes so we can’t do that again… we have to believe that we are much better than that team. We can’t do that, we’re a really good team so we have to believe in our game and I think that could help us a lot.”
In the fourth Hungary held on to their lead and came away with the win. They can cause some problems in the qualifiers and the finals, whereas Serbia is a problem. I hesitate to say they are ‘the’ problem this early on, as both France and Belgium’s product is tremendous, but those three are my podium so far.
France defeats Slovenia 73-68 (box score)
Nothing was on the line for either nation here. France is directly through to the quarter-finals and Slovenia has been eliminated. You could say pride was on the line but that’s so fucking boring, cringe and hollow.
Slovenia wasn’t able to deliver their home fans a win in EuroBasket and France was class through the group phase. They can’t lose even if they try, their bottom end is so solid that they can find wins in their off nights. They are a pure contender, they drain the life out of their opponent and dictate the pace of every contest. You won’t rush them and you won’t get running yourself. You aren’t going to score as much as you want and you aren’t going to score as much as them. Good ball movement and suffocating defence is this team’s modus operandi. Like a cat playing with its food, they make you feel like you’re close enough to win but you never stand a chance.
Slovakia defeats Turkey 80-66 (box score)
The loser went home and through two days of play, both of these teams showed why they should be the team to leave. Turkey’s system is fraudulent and is centred around individual players, not the team. Defensively they have been okay, with strong patches being offset by leaky patches. Offensively they’re fine for the few minutes following a time out but they lose their way.
Slovakia was by no means ready for this tournament. They’re undersized, overmatched and incomplete offensively and defensively. Both of these teams should be baby food in the quarter-final qualifiers against Germany. After a slog that kept me up way past my bedtime, Slovakia earned this honour.